Prior to the 2020-21 men's basketball season, history repeating itself in the Furman-VMI series was a good thing for the Paladins as they had won each of the last 10 meetings. The Keydets have bucked that trend ever since though, and done so in what's becoming an all too familiar way for Furman.
On Saturday in Lexington, Va., the Paladins went more than seven minutes without a basket down the stretch as VMI came back for a 76-67 victory. It's the third consecutive win in the series for the Keydets (9-5, 2-0 Southern Conference), who've rallied from a second-half deficit in each one of those.
Furman (9-6, 1-1) played without head coach Bob Richey, who was with wife Jessica as her due date was looming. Associate head coach Jeremy Growe filled in for Richey.
In the team's lone meeting last regular season at VMI, Furman held an eight-point lead with 16:30 left and was up 60-55 with 7:20 remaining before falling 74-73. In the opening round of the SoCon Tournament in Asheville last season, the Paladins led VMI 77-64 with 6:12 left, but did not score another field goal in regulation and went on to lose 93-92 in overtime.
On Saturday, Furman led by five early in the second half and made six consecutive field goals from the 15:02 mark to the 10:10 mark to take a 53-51 lead. After Joe Anderson hit a three-pointer to cut VMI's lead to 59-58 with 7:43 left, the Paladins missed eight consecutive shots. By the time Furman's Alex Hunter ended that drought on a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left, the Keydets had already built a 13-point lead.
Jalen Slawson had 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two blocks and steal for Furman, which led by as many as eight in the first half and 36-30 at the break. Mike Bothwell was the only other Paladin in double figures with 14 points and eight rebounds. Furman's two best three-point shooters, Hunter and Conley Garrison, struggled to get their shots to fall. Hunter went 2-for-10 from beyond the arc, while Garrison hit 1-of-5.
Jake Stephens had 23 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks for VMI, which shot 62.1 percent from the floor in the second half. The Keydets missed more than two consecutive shots just twice. Both times came in the first half and they were stretches of just three and four straight misses, respectively.
Furman will next play at UNC Greensboro Wednesday at 7 p.m. Richey is expected to be back with the team as Jessica gave birth to the couple's third child at 3:25 a.m. Wednesday morning.